New Robert Schuler Dulcimers
Instruments- discuss specific features, luthiers, instrument problems & questions
Thanks. In case anyone doesn’t know, Robert is on the site if you’re thinking about a new dulcimer.
Thanks. In case anyone doesn’t know, Robert is on the site if you’re thinking about a new dulcimer.
I’ve added two Robert Schuler dulcimers to my collection. They are pretty close to identical and I’ve strung them so I can tune one to C or D and the other to G or A. They are deep body dulcimers and I am very happy with them. The workmanship looks great and I love the sound. I’ll post some photos and a sound sample. Just don’t blame him for my limited musical ability.
Congratulations on ordering your new dulcimer. I also think they have a wonderful sound. I came very close to getting one but it just didn’t work out. I ended up getting a large body dulcimer from Robert Schuler here on the site. Enjoy your new love.
I think I’ll try tuning them up to E and see if it makes a difference.
I have a follow up question. I know I’ve heard comments about floppy strings with low/loose tuning. I just can’t remember what the cure is, heavier or lighter gauge strings? Thanks
So then you are wanting to reach newbies while the quarantine is in effect? Maybe contact some social media influencers. If you can find one that supports the idea that a musical interest is good for people maybe they will put the word out. Maybe they would do a video of them getting some lessons showing how easy it is to learn.
It might work to have a “dulcimer booth” at other events or fairs. It would give teachers a chance to do hands on instruction for newbies.
I’m glad I asked. I had gotten the impression or made the assumption that it was like using a calculator to figure what 2+2 is. It sounds like the calculator will give you a useable string but not the one and only. More of a starting point than THE answer. Thanks for the info.
I’ve learned that it matters what string gauge is used and it depends on the VSL/scale and what key you are tuning to. Then I found out about online string gauge calculators. I’m wondering if most people use the string gauge calculator or something else. Maybe whatever size came on their dulcimer when new or a gauge they decided sounds best. My first dulcimer came with extra strings .024, .014 and .012 for tuning DAdd. The string gauge calculator calls for .019, .012 and .009 for DAdd on the 28.5 VSL. I didn’t know what strings were on my second dulcimer when I got it. After experimenting with new strings and tuning I wanted to return to the original DAA tuning. I checked the calculator and ordered .018W, .012, .012 for its 30” VSL. After playing it I thought something was different. I asked what size strings were on it new and it was .026, .014 and .014 because he thought the heavier strings improved the tone and volume. I haven’t switched back yet but I agree it sounded better with the heavier strings. Both dulcimers have bodies on the larger size. Maybe that is why both came new with heavier strings. Now I’m wondering if there is more to choosing string gauges than running the string gauge calculator. How do you choose your string gauge?
@ Strumelia Thanks for the reply. You are right about the just intonation dulcimers. I can translate the notation you used to put in to the string calculator since it includes octave numbers. It is helpful to learn that I should lean towards the heavier side for tuning between C & D and G & A. Thanks for not giving up on me. Ken
@Traildad, you are making a false assumption that a note using an upper case letter always refers to a note below middle C. I tune my baritone dulcimer GDg. All of those notes are below middle C. I use the lower case g to indicate that the string is an octave above the bass string. I also have an octave baritone dulcimer, meaning it is tuned an octave above that baritone, and I still indicate the tuning as GDg even though only the low G is below middle C and the D and high g are above it. I also have octave dulcimers that I often tune DAd, but all those notes are above middle C.
In other words, the use of the upper and lower case letters shows how the notes relate to each other, not how they relate to some objective standard like a piano.
There are ways to indicate exactly which octave on the piano a given tone is from, but almost none of us bother with that.
Strumelia's blog was not specifically about string gauge, but she does mention that she stopped using a wound bass string and only used string gauges around .10 or .11. The blog post is about how she gets to the main 4 keys of C, D, G, and A with two dulcimers, one that can tune to C and D and one that can tune to G and A.
If all you want to know is what octaves one uses for 1-5-5 tunings in those four keys . . .
C-G-G would usually be C3-G3-G3
D-A-A would usually be D3-A3-A3
G-D-D would be either G2-D3-D3 (as a baritone) or G3-D4-D4 (as a 3/4-size instrument like a Ginger)
A-E-E would be either A2-E3-E3 (as a baritone) or A3-E4-E4 (as a 3/4-size instrument)
Of all those notes, only the D4 and E4 are above middle C.
@ Dusty Turtle Thanks for the reply. I don’t mean to make assumptions. I was using the notation that is used on the string calculator to differentiate between octaves. The notation you are using above works as well since it indicates octaves and I can convert it for the string gauge calculator. Thanks for your patience and help. Ken
I’m working on getting two just intonation dulcimers. Unfortunately one of them had a major fret placement defect and was unplayable. Hopefully I can get it replaced and I’ll be able to change keys like I want without restringing.
and your response to Ron dated 2/24/2009.
Many times in both blog posts and your response to Ron you refer to the tunings DAA, CGC, CGG, EAE, DGD, CCG, AEE, GDD all to describe tuning in the keys of A,C,D and G. Nowhere do you mention a galax or the special tuning you now refer to with the .010 strings. I will admit that my question “ I’m trying to figure out which octaves all the notes are for each key.” could have included more detail. But the question is pretty straightforward and all the tunings are standard tunings and to my knowledge have nothing to do with the specialized galax tuning. I would hope it was clear that my question was about the different tunings you referred to in your blog. I still don’t understand why your answer was about string size instead of what octaves the notes are in. It is possible that the octaves are notated correctly and all strings are tuned below middle c. I am still trying to get what I thought was a simple question answered. I am sorry that I make you pull your hair out.
@traildad No, EAA is not 1-5-5. DAA is 1-5-5.
I'm not the best person to explain this because I am, really, a by-ear player. Here goes, though. DAA is 1-5-5 and I will try to demonstrate how this is. To visualize it, hold your hand in front of you, palm side up. Consider your thumb as representing D then think of your index finger as E, your middle finger as F-sharp, your ring finger as G, and your little finger as A. The D you started with (your thumb) is 1. Counting across your fingers in the order stated above, you arrive at your little finger, A, which is 5.
I had mentioned in the 2nd post I was trying to figure this for 155 tunings so I wasn’t sure if you were saying that’s what yours was. I had tried to ask about 155 tunings in an earlier thread but I messed it up. When I’ve got both dulcimers with the proper strings gauges in front of me I’ll explore that subject. I figure it will be easier when I can actually tune the dulcimers rather than just talk about it.
For what it's worth (and it might not be worth much), I tune to the key of A by beginning in a "home base" tuning of DAA then placing a small piece of wood under the bass string at fret 1 to raise the bass string to E-- using EAA to play in the key of A. I have standard dulcimers of varying VSL's and tune to any tuning I wish within the limits of what the string will take.
Would this be considered a 155 tuning?
The Strothers String Gauge Calculator suggests strings of .023 for A and .016 for E on a dulcimer with a 30 inch VSL and .026 and .018 for G and D. You might try .024 and .017 and feel comfortable tuning to both. You will be tuning to the G and A below the standard D tuning.
What exact pitch to tune the strings to for each of the four (C,D,A,G) 155 tunings is a whole other subject. I missed the mark when I asked that question before. The topic thread went awry and I dropped out. I figure I can try again when I have dulcimers in front of me with the correct string gauges so I can learn hands on rather than theory so to speak.
I left the name out on purpose to avoid it being about the person instead of the question. It is a well respected member. I assume personal experience can vary and something like a bad batch of strings might lead us to different conclusions. The benefit of the forum is getting input from the larger community to hear what others experience. All things being equal I’d rather have two matched instruments so it’s easier going from one to the other. Thanks for your input.
Ok it makes sense a baritone would need to be designed to sound best in the lower ranges. I want to stick with a “standard” size dulcimer. I reread the article and the shorter VSL is to help prevent breaking the EE strings when tuning in the key of A. I’d like to just follow the advice if I can get a dulcimer that fits my needs in that length. If not, how well will a 30” VSL handle tuning to the key of A with the correct string gauges?
Below is a quote from the article.
“I chose my shorter scale length dulcimer (26 1/2") for tuning to the keys of A and G, since a high EE was the highest note of all that I'd be tuning to in the four keys I'd be playing, so the shorter length kept less stress on the strings tuned up that high. And I chose my longer scaled dulcimer (28 1/2") for tuning to the keys of C and D, since GG was the lowest note of all that I'd be tuning to in the four keys, and a longer scale would help avoid those low G's from feeling too floppy.”
@Dusty Turtle Yes that is why I want two dulcimers. I haven’t considered a baritone dulcimer. I heard of them but I don’t know what is different about them from a standard dulcimer.
Sorry if I’m not explaining this clearly or using the right terminology. I have one dulcimer with a VSL of 30”. I was planning to pair it with one around 26”. Because I am looking for a speciality noter drone dulcimer I can’t order one from just any maker. That limits my choices. I can get a second 30” VSL if I want. I’m trying to decide if I can get by with two longer dulcimers instead of one longer and one shorter. The plan is to use one dulcimer to switch between the keys of C and D and the other for the keys of G and A, standard 155 tuning. Of course using the correct string gauge on each dulcimer. I would like to have good playability with the looser stings and also avoid breaking the tightest strings. So I’ve read the recommendation to get one dulcimer in the 30” range and one in the 26” range to help this issue. I’m pretty sure it’s not impossible to use 2 30” VSL dulcimers instead. I’ve discovered there are several very good dulcimer makers out there that don’t know diddly squat about noter drone dulcimers. I guess I’m trying to figure out how much playability I’ll lose going with two 30” dulcimers. Is the benefit of having one shorter VSL worth making an extra effort to find one or is it splitting hairs?
What are the notes for 155 tuning? I’m sure I’ve got some of these wrong but I think the melody E string for the Key of A is the tightest string and the Drone C string for the key of C is the loosest. The goal is to get good tension on the loose strings while not breaking the tight strings by using a heavier gauge on one dulcimer and a lighter gauge on the other dulcimer. I understand the wisdom of the advice to change dulcimers when going from a low key to a high key. Having two dulcimers will solve a large part of the problem of playing in high and low keys. I just don’t know how much better it will be to also get the shorter VSL.
Key of A is AEE?
Key of G is GDD?
Key of C is CGG?
Key of D is DAA?
Thanks for the help.
I should have mentioned that I am trying to figure this for 155 tunings. I think a melody string E is the highest note. Two dulcimers for four tunings. Depending of course on the songs I favor at the moment it could be frequent changes up or down the one note. I can’t remember which VSL was recommended for the high tuning. I should re read the blog. Maybe it was the lower notes that were better on the shorter VSL. I do plan on using the calculator to get the right gauge strings. If I can’t get the shorter VSL I’m hoping that using two different dulcimers with the right gauge of strings will still allow good tension for the low drones and no breakage on the high melody strings. Thanks.
I’ve read that a shorter or longer VSL is beneficial for different tunings especially to keep from breaking strings on the highest notes. I'm wondering how problematic tuning between C and D or G and A will be on a 30” VSL if I can’t find a shorter VSL dulcimer I like.
Thanks for the positive thoughts. It will be my go to instrument when playing with others. It has a good sound and volume.
I brought my dulcimer back to Dave and he adjusted the action. It now looks like the nickel and dime fit perfectly. Also the buzz is gone. 👌
Traildad, were you able to get together with Dave of Black Mountain Instruments regarding your new dulcimer issues?
I have been wondering what effect colder temperatures might be having. I don’t heat my house and it seemed to start with the cooler temperatures. I just took it to my dads yesterday and warmed it up in my truck twice and left it at work all day so it was warmed to normal room temperature. The buzz is still there. Now that I know it isn’t temperature related I will arrange a time to take it to him.
Traildad, I'm not sure exactly what you are meaning, but perhaps this prior discussion will help you:
I think I’ve figured out that the “latest activity” section on the home page shows recent forum and group posts. It doesn’t show my group posts organized together but it helps me find the most recent group postings. I’ve been wondering where to look to catch up and make sure I’m not missing new group posts.
On the audio upload page it shows a spot for style or instrument. When entering the info for the upload I don’t see any obvious place to enter the info for that line. I’d like it to read “Dulcimer Noter Drone Style” is there a way to add the info?
I was reading the Mountain Dulcimer Noter and Drone blog. suggested getting two different VSL dulcimers for playing in different keys. 28 1/2 for D or C and 26 1/2 for A or G. If a 28 1/2 VSL led to broken strings tuning up to E, what is the down side to just using the 26 1/2 VSL? I can understand using two dulcimers with different string gauges for different tunings. I've read that a shorter VSL helps for chording, especially with smaller hands. I've also read that VSL is not so important for noter drone style. I've observed that VSL and the overall size of the dulcimer can make a difference in tone. I'd like to learn more about choosing a VSL for a noter drone dulcimer and the pros and cons of different VSLs in general.
If you are getting together with the builder, DO NOT DO ANYTHING until he checks it over. If you live that close to the builder, don't be doing things yourself. That's just silly. Let the builder do any modifications he feels are necessary.
I wouldn’t do any more than try a heavier string. Any thoughts on the best way to fix it? Shims or a new saddle?
You've got the nickel & dime idea WRONG.
The strings should just touch a dime setting next to the first fret.
They should also just touch a nickel balanced on top of the 7th fret not the 6th fret.
If open strings are sharp before playing -- how sharp is sharp?? A few cents? Half way across the dial? If the instrument is in tune when you put it away --- and is sharp when you come back to play again -- you have some serious environmental issues going on. Where are you storing it. in direct sunlight at any time? In a cold back room?
Ok I rechecked it. The dime does fit nicely between the string and fretboard at the first fret. The nickel won’t fit anywhere between the frets and strings. Should that be corrected before I try other fixes? What would be the fix? Shim the saddle or replace it?